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Chattanooga’s Pride: Sam LaStarr

To celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we are highlighting some of the amazing LGBTQ+ creatives in our community. We are proud to tell the story of Sam LaStarr.

“I feel like in a lot of ways becoming an artist was a lot like watching the tide come into shore, both in its inevitably and conviction.”

When asked about what the process of becoming an artist was like for Sam LaStarr, this was how they immediately responded. As a child, they begged for sketchbooks and art supplies. Sam says that art was their way to fill a void that they felt as someone who struggled socially.

“I leaned into my art to focus and help me escape from an environment that was unprepared for a sensitive queer kid,” Sam said.

Sam had the fortune of living next door to an eccentric artist named Lynn who took Sam under her wing and nurtured their creative spirits. While Lynn passed away when Sam was 15, her acceptance of Sam and efforts to help Sam in discovering their creative self left a lasting impact. Even today Sam carries the memory of Lynn and uses it for inspiration.

Many obstacles have popped up in Sam’s life, but despite all of them they persevered and continued to grow. This eventually led to Sam not only dedicating more of their life and time to their artwork, but also to them coming out as nonbinary.

“I looked at myself and asked myself what I wanted,” Sam said. “There was a small and tired but strong voice that said for me to stop avoiding me, stop hiding me, and to let me see the sun.”

When Sam began to enter the Chattanooga arts community, they anticipated encountering the dismissal that they had seen at other points in their life. They found the opposite though. The arts community welcomed them as them, never creating issues or showing disdain over their sexuality. Sam is especially thankful for the Association of Visual Arts and how welcoming they were. Sam also has had great experiences with ArtsBuild and The Chattery, and says that they are very thankful for how accepting they were of them as both an artist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“There have been many times in my life that I didn’t feel safe, heard, or acknowledged, but thus far the Chattanooga arts community has continued to impress me in their acceptance and readiness for LGBTQ+ artists,” Sam said.

To any local LGBTQ+ artists wanting to become more involved in the arts community, Sam said:

“Jump in! Any of the organizations I suggested earlier are a great place to start. All three are fantastically capable of connecting you to other artists and opportunities to succeed. Make Art and show it to people. You will be amazed at how much just showing up does. If you're struggling mentally it’s okay and important to get help in whatever capacity you're ready for there are a lot of options including some that are free. It definitely wasn't easy but I believe getting help was paramount to reaching where I am now. Talk with other artists and expand your own horizons. Try new things, new mediums, new styles, new ways of expressing yourself. You might be surprised at what new thing you resonate with. Don't be afraid to talk about hard things in your art. I’ve been surprised and touched at the reactions people have had to some of my most emotionally heavy pieces.”

You can view Sam’s work on Instagram.

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